By Anthony Saude
Chino – Glory, Grace, and Hope all come in the form of white buses to the Chino Valley Unified School District they are driven by volunteers on a mission to share the Christian faith with children.
The buses can be found weekly parked near all 22 elementary schools. Children hop on board during school hours once a week to receive an hour of Bible teachings and character building.
The program has never been associated with the district.
Every first-year student is given the Honey Word children’s Bible upon graduation.
The program celebrated its twentieth year in existence in the school district with a luncheon at Los Serranos Country Club.
Gail Blake-Smith of Chino Hills, Founder and director of the program, explained that the program is made possible by the California State Education Code and is authorized by a school board policy.
There are rules to follow like no taxpayer money may be used, parent permission is required, and instruction must not take place on the school campus.
The program was started by Blake-Smith in 1998, two schools were involved—Cortez and E.J. Marshall–four volunteer teachers, and 11 children participated in the program that first year.
At this time all 22 elementary schools and 40 volunteers, half of those being teachers are now participating. Approximately 5,000 children have gone through the program since it inception.
Robert Ramirez of Chino Hills, known as the “bus godfather,” devotes his time to making sure the buses are always in clean good working order. He also a drives one of the buses and is a teacher assistant, and the go-to guy for the program.
Chino resident Maria Simpson said she attended when she was in the sixth grade and it was her first contact with Christians. Her experience was so special to her that she became volunteer teacher for several years and encountered children with deep questions about God.
Four graduates from the seven-month program gave heartfelt testimonies about how their lives have been changed forever.
One student said that in his second year of the program, he began to realize how much he loved and needed God and started sharing the Gospel with my friends,” he said.
Mrs. Blake-Smith said today’s youth are faced with challenges and alarming problems that were unheard of a few years ago.
The program will is grateful to Calvary Chapel Chino Hills and Calvary Chapel Golden Springs for their “extraordinary support and continued love for the program.”